Tag Archives: mystery

Thrones, Dominations (Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane #1) by Dorothy Sayers and Jill Patton Walsh

Thrones, Dominations (Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane #1)

*WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS*

I actually finished reading this book over a month ago, and even though I meant to write a review immediately, I obviously kind of forgot about that. So I apologize in advance, because I’m going to be a little fuzzy on the details.

First, background: Dorothy Sayers left this book unfinished, having abandoned it in 1936. She left some fragments of the novel behind, and Jill Paton Walsh was recruited to finish the book in 1998. It’s not clear how much of the book is Sayers and how much is Walsh, but it feels primarily the latter, and I’m try to articulate why I felt this way.

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Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott

Ghostwalk

*WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS*

In theory, this book should have been my jam. The story opens with Elizabeth Vogelsang being found dead in a river near her Cambridge home, clutching a glass prism in her hand. Elizabeth is a 17th-century scholar who specializes in Isaac Newton, and her death interrupts her work on a book exploring Newton’s interest in alchemy. Elizabeth’s son, Cameron, recruits Lydia Brooke (a writer, friend of Elizabeth, and Cameron’s former lover) to ghost-write the rest of Elizabeth’s book. Along the way, Lydia tries to unravel the secrets in Elizabeth’s research – secrets that might have led to her death.

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Lord Peter: The Complete Lord Peter Wimsey Stories by Dorothy Sayers

Lord Peter (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries)

Since discovering Lord Peter in college, I’ve resisted the urge to race through all of his mysteries. There are only eleven, and I prefer to read them slowly, one every year or so, so they can last as long as possible. Knowing that I only have four left makes me sad, but this collection was a nice antidote – with twenty-one stories, it felt like at least three or four novels’ worth of mysteries.
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The Skull Beneath the Skin (Cordelia Gray #2) by PD James

The Skull Beneath the Skin (Cordelia Gray, #2)

It was the setup that convinced me to buy this one: Private detective Cordelia Gray is hired by the husband of aging actress Clarissa Lisle, who has been receiving death threats in the form of literary quotations. It doesn’t seem particularly sinister, but Clarissa has an important performance coming up and the notes are affecting her career, so her husband calls Cordelia in to find out who is leaving the notes. To do this, Cordelia pretends to be Clarissa’s secretary and accompanies her to Courcy Island, where Clarissa is scheduled to perform in a production of The Duchess of Malfi, held in the theater of the castle on the island. Also on the island: Clarissa’s cousin, a theater critic who has a history with the actress, her stepson from a previous marriage, and their host and owner of the castle.

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The Unfinished Clue by Georgette Heyer

The Unfinished Clue

For real, is there anything as fun as an old-fashioned murder mystery in an English country house? They’re like catnip to me, to the extent that I’ve seen Gosford Park at least six times and aren’t even close to getting sick of it.

Speaking of which, Georgette Heyer’s The Unfinished Clue is almost a carbon copy of that movie. We have a motley assortment of guests gathered together in a country home for the weekended (they include the host’s mistress, the man in love with the host’s wife, and the host’s son with his new fiancee), and the host is an insufferable dick to everyone, giving everyone a motive. It’s so similar to Gosford Park, in fact, that murder itself is almost exactly like the movie – the host, Sir Arthur Billington-Smith, is found stabbed to death in his study. Actually, the solution to the mystery is pretty similar to Gosford Park as well, and that’s all the detail I’ll go into without spoiling it.

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A Noble Radiance (Commissario Brunetti #7) by Donna Leon

A Noble Radiance (Commissario Brunetti, #7)

Oh Donna Leon, I wish I knew how to quit you.

Seriously guys, I can’t fully explain what keeps me coming back to her books. The mysteries are never as good as the synopses make them sound, the stories are full of useless filler scenes to increase the page count, Guido Brunetti’s investigative technique is less “actual investigating and action scenes” and more “doing lots of phone interviews”, and none of it is terribly riveting.

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The Floating Admiral by Agatha Christie, GK Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, and other members of the Detection Club

Floating Admiral cover

When I was in high school, I was part of a little group of friends who all wanted to be writers. In my sophomore year, we started an informal writing exercise, called The Notebook Game. Basically it would go like this: someone would start writing a story in a notebook (maybe three pages, just to set up the scene and some of the characters), and then give the notebook to someone else, who would continue the story. They would pass it to the next person, and on and on, with the notebook traveling around the group while we wrote the story collectively. There were rules: you could couldn’t hang on to the notebook for longer than a week, you were not allowed to kill off anyone else’s characters or have their characters have sudden unexplained changes of heart (unless the character’s creator gave you permission to do so) and if you wanted your character to make out with someone else’s character you needed the writer’s approval first. The notebook stories were usually abandoned after a few weeks (I remember one that was shared between five or six of us, and no one had any idea what sort of plot to do so we all kept introducing new characters whenever it was our turn to have the notebook), but there was one really successful notebook story that I did with two of my friends. It turned into this (really very dumb) fantasy story about warriors who could turn into dragons (but that ended up not being important) and my big character was a witch who was basically a carbon copy of the main character in this Morgan le Faye novel I was reading at the time, but the point was that she ended up fighting a war with the bad-boy dragon prince and at the end they made out and we were all very pleased with our fifteen-year-old selves. The point is that the stories we managed to create were pretty terrible and usually devolved into total messes, but it was really fun. And I still have the original notebooks that contained the dragon story (it got so long that we ran out of space in the six-subject one we started with, and had to buy a new one for the last few chapters).

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